Why the business world has an image problem

More transparency and greater respect for employees would improve the way people view the world of business according to a new report.

The study conducted by the CBI, in partnership with PR agency Porter Novelli and research company Opinium, has investigated what people think of business and what needs to be done to improve public perceptions.

The report, Everyone's business, finds that while the public recognises the important role that business plays - particularly in providing jobs - there is still a clear disconnect between businesses and people in communities across the UK.

The research highlights room for improvement in two key areas - transparency over how businesses operate and the way employers treat their staff. Key findings include:

  • 77% of respondents say heads of business are very far removed from the world of ordinary people;
  • 60% say treating their employees well would improve the reputation of UK businesses, with transparency about tax coming second (47%);
  • 49% say that engaging more directly with employees is the best way for business leaders to become less remote;
  • 33% urge business leaders to avoid jargon and business speak;
  • 48% of people say they understand how a company works;
  • 64% of people say they have a good relationship with their employer.

"People tell us they recognise the importance of business - particularly in providing jobs - but there is still a reputation challenge and a clear disconnect between what businesses do and what people believe," said CBI president Paul Drechsler.

"To tackle this, businesses need to improve the way they interact with employees and customers, to show they are more than faceless machines motivated by profit. Treating employees and customers well is the starting point for improving people's relationship with business, accompanied by clear communication. That's why I'm calling on business leaders to think about ways to improve their interactions with employees and customers and junk the jargon."

Fenella Grey, md of Porter Novelli London, said: "When a company or an executive chooses buzzwords over straight talk, they risk losing respect, trust and, crucially, an opportunity to turn members of the public into supporters. People want to be told things straight, and that includes hearing about what businesses do and why."

Working with Porter Novelli and Opinium, the CBI will now publish a twice-yearly tracker of attitudes towards business to measure progress.

  • Prompt, efficient and clear communication, helped provide a clear understanding of the issues and situation